Friday, September 18, 2020

Week of September 19 - 25, 2020


To answer these trivia questions, please email me at

Brain Teasers:

In the English version of which Italian Western does the villain complain that the stupid gringos "change the names of everything"?
Tom Betts knew that it was ARIZONA COLT, aka THE MAN FROM NOWHERE.

On whose couch did Albert Band stay when he first arrived in Rome?
No one answered this question yet.

Which star of Italian Westerns was born in Bogota, Colombia in 1943?
Tom Betts, Bertrand Van Wonterghem and George Grimes knew that it was Lou Castel.

Which actor who appeared in both Italian Westerns and sword and sandal flicks was born in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1923?
Tom Betts, Bertrand Van Wonterghem and George Grimes knew that it was Gustavo Rojo.

Which actor who appeared in both Italian and Spanish Westerns as well as a Mexican Santo flick was born in Madrid, Spain, in 1922?
Tom Betts and George Grimes knew that it was Ruben Rojo.

And now for some new brain teasers:

Which American star of Italian Westerns said that he was up for a role in DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, but couldn't accept it because of a contract with Warner Bros.?
Which American star of Italian Westerns was part owner of a bar that catered to Americans in Rome?
Which American star of Italian Westerns became an acting coach in Los Angeles in the late 1970s?

Name the movies from which these images came.

Tom Betts, George Grimes and Bertrand Van Wonterghem identified last week's photo of Gerard Herter, Lee Van Cleef and Walter Barnes in LA RESA DEI CONTI, aka THE BIG GUNDOWN.
Above is a new photo.
Can you name from what movie it came?

George Grimes identified last week's photo of Bella Cortez and Gordon Mitchell in IL GIGANTE DI METROPOLIS, aka THE GIANT OF METROPOLIS.
Above is a new photo.
Can you name from what movie it came?

Bertrand Van Wonterghem identified last week's frame grab of Luciana Gilli in LA MONTAGNA DI LUCE, aka TEMPLE OF A THOUSAND LIGHTS.
Above is a new photo.
Can you name from what movie it came?

George Grimes identified last week's photo of Hiroyuki Sanada and Conan Lee in NINJA IN THE DRAGON'S DEN.
Above is a new photo.
Can you name from what movie it came?

I am interested in knowing what movies you have watched and what you enjoyed or not. So please send me an email at if you'd like to share. Here's what I watched last week:


The Crown (2016) The first four episodes.

Mildly enjoyed:

TERMINATOR 3: THE RISE OF THE MACHINES (2003) - A.O. Scott of The New York Times wrote that the film "is essentially a B movie, content to be loud, dumb and obvious." I kept thinking that the script never becomes more than something that New World Pictures would make but blown up to be the most expensive movie of its time - before TITANTIC. LAST ACTION HERO is brilliant in comparison. On the plus side, Claire Danes looks great.

TERMINATOR GENISYS (2015) - Emilia Clarke looks great. The people who have the sequel rights to TERMINATOR seem determined to make more even if people don't seem to like them. I didn't much like the newest one, DARK FATE, but it inspired me to catch up on those I've not watched yet. GENISYS seems to be the film most fans dislike most, but I found it more fun than RISE OF THE MACHINES and SALVATION, possibly because J.K. Simmons is an hoot. And it has Matt Smith and features "I Want To Be Sedated" by The Ramones.

THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME (2018) - Co-writer and director Susanna Fogel succeeded better in making a "feminist" action comedy than writer and director Elizabeth Banks did with 2019's CHARLIE'S ANGELS, though Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon aren't "super agents", but "normal women" who end up triumphing over "super agents". Action director Gary Powell delivers terrific stuff here, which augments the character comedy. The plot is fairly standard stuff, and Kate McKinnon can be "too much" at times, but Ivanna Sakhno is a knockout, and there is nice support from Gillian Anderson, Jane Curtin, Paul Reiser and Outlander's Sam Heughan

TOPPER RETURNS (1941) - The third and final film in the series starring Roland Young as the character created by Thorne Smith, RETURNS is an old-fashioned CAT AND CANARY comedy thriller with Topper tossed in without any real justification. Joan Blondell is delightful, and bra-less, as the friend of a gorgeous heiress, Carole Landis, venturing to the family estate. A sniper shoots out the tire of their taxi cab, but driver Dennis O'Keefe succeeds in not going over the cliff into the sea. Young, being chauffeured by Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, happens by and the ladies commandeer his car to take them to Carrington Manor, with Blondell parking herself on Young's lap. Blondell is so much fun that when she is inadvertently murdered by someone mistaking her for Landis, the movie becomes less enjoyable. Of course she becomes the ghost to torment Young into solving her murder, but that doesn't compensate. And how her ghost knew to leave Carrington Manor to find Young next door is never explained. Billie Burke is alot of fun doing Gracie Allen gags as Young's wife, Patsy Kelly gives nice support as her maid, and while Anderson does the usual scared Black guy stuff - complaining that this never happened when he worked for Mr. Benny, he is not required to do anything insulting and he's no sillier than anyone else in the movie. The Manor is filled with red herring suspects, including George Zucco, and Donald MacBride plays the befuddled detective. The writers give just about every character something witty to say, and even toss in a reference to REBECCA. Considering that he was already an established director, Gordon Douglas is surprisingly one of the three credited writers of the screenplay, but veteran Roy Del Ruth is the director. Modern audiences might be confused by all of the references to popular radio programs, but that information can be found on the internet.

Did not enjoy:

GHOSTS OF ABU GHRAIB (2007) - This is quite a good documentary about some of the most shameful events in American history, so I can't say that I enjoyed it. By interviewing those who committed the atrocities, the film helps in understanding why it happened, but it becomes infuriating to remember that none of those responsible were ever brought to justice. This was directed by Robert Kennedy's youngest daughter Rory Kennedy.

THE HITMAN (1991) - Chuck Norris is on a stakeout with Michael Parks on a cold and wet night on the docks. Parks just about convinces Norris that they should give up for the night when Norris sees something and runs off. As Norris sneaks around a drug operation, someone with a silencer on his pistol is killing everyone in the operation. Surprise, the guy with the silencer is Parks, who shoots Norris twice until Norris does a high fall out of a window onto the top of station wagon. Norris dies on the operating table, but Dr. William B. Davis (from The X-Files) is able to bring him back. Cop boss Ken Pogue decides he wants everyone to think that Norris is dead. Three years later, Norris has been working for Italian mobster Al Waxman in Seattle, Washington for two years. Waxman is in competition with French mobster Marcel Sabourin from Vancouver B.C. and Norris' job is to get the two to meet so that Pogue can bust them together. Meanwhile the little boy in Norris' apartment, Salim Grant, is getting picked on by a bully from across the street, so Norris teaches him a little karate. Suddenly, there seems to be a third gang in town; a gang of Iranians. Norris catches one, and an Italian gangster tortures the Iranian by trying to get him to eat pork. Later on, Norris taunts the Iranians in a restaurant with a few racist remarks. It turns out that the Iranians are being run by Parks whom Waxman thinks is working for him. But after the Iranians kill off Frenchmen, they also kill off the Italians. Finally Norris kills off the Iranians. This is the kind of movie in which one gang robs another gang in the middle of a downtown street with no one around. Then, the one gang machine guns the other gang and no one reacts, not even a fancy cab driver with horse. Then a third gang shows up to machine gun the murderous gang and still no one seems to notice. This is the kind of movie where two men are being held at gunpoint. The bad guys shoot one man dead and then allow the other man to get into his car, which then blows up. Norris' brother Aaron is credited as the director of this, with Richard and Lesley Brander credited as "dramatic supervisor" while Dean Raphael Ferrandini is the action coordinator. Howcome Harry Alan Towers used his Peter Welbeck moniker, which he usually saves for his writing credits, for his producer credit here? Despite the title, Norris never works as an hitman in this film.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 (2014) - This product is not intended for me to consume, but I gave it a shot and found it irritating. Is it because the storytelling seemed by-the-numbers?

LOST HORIZON (1973) - This probably looked good on paper. With AIRPORT, producer Ross Hunter proved that there was still an audience for star-studded old fashion melodramas based on best selling books. James Hilton wrote the popular novel in 1933, after World War 1 and during the build-up to World War 2, describing an Asian Utopia high in the mountains of Tibet. With the anti-Vietnam War sentiment at a fever pitch, Hunter must have thought the audience would respond to a remake of the 1937 movie version with its vision of a place of peace, love and understanding preparing to show the world a new way to live. THE SOUND OF MUSIC was still the top moneymaker in cinema history, so, even though Hollywood musicals were flopping all around, Hunter must have felt that a musical remake of LOST HORIZON was a surefire hit. Especially if he hired the man proclaimed by Newsweek magazine to be America's "Music Man", in collaboration with Hal David, to do the music. Well, though Burt Bacharach had a number of hit songs in the Broadway show PROMISES, PROMISES, that venture away from hit singles wasn't successful. The cast was filled with good actors and legendary MGM choreographer Hermes Pan was hired to give them dances. Larry Kramer, who had recently gotten an Oscar nomination for writing WOMEN IN LOVE, was hired to do the screenplay, which turned out to be dully conventional. There are a number of jumps in the narrative which suggests that scenes of dialogue were dropped inorder to fit in the songs. 
Unfortunately, both the dialogue and the songs were dull and conventional, and even Bacharach was unable to spin a few hits out of his score - though a number of them have been covered by other performers.

NAPOLEONCITO (1964) - Silvana Pampanini came to public attention in the 1946 Miss Italy contest, which she didn't win, but led to a film career which derailed her intention to become an opera singer. By 1964 when she made this Mexican comedy, her career was almost at an end. In this film, the short Venezuela born comic Amador Bendayan plays an admirer of Napoleon who brags about having met the visiting star Pampanini. His friends from work don't believe him, so he sets out to prove them wrong. After failing to get  her attention in a variety of ways, he hires a thug to pretend to murder her, so that he can rush in and save her. However, the thug who shows up isn't the thug he hires and he survives the combat only by luck. He finally convinces her to come with him to a New Year's Eve party, where she can be seen kissing him infront of all of his office friends. However, his friends are so engrossed in their own romantic entanglements, that they don't notice. Not accustomed to being ignored, Pampanini stalks out in a huff. After complaining that his friends from work always ignore him, Bendayan goes home to his neighborhood, where those friends surprise him with a big party. Chastised, his work friends show up to join the neighborhood party where our hero finally acknowledges the beautiful woman next door, Angelica Maria. This is just one of the over 140 films directed by Gilberto Martinez Solares. This film has a scene reminiscent of 1963's FUN IN ACAPULCO, where our hero makes the famous cliff dive at La Quebrada. 

TRY AND GET ME, aka THE SOUND OF FURY (1950) - Times have changed. In this movie a well dressed White man, Lloyd Bridges, makes a living robbing gas stations. He tempts down-on-his luck Frank Lovejoy into a life of crime. Richard Carlson is a reporter ordered to sensationalize the story into a crime wave. After Bridges lures Lovejoy into a kidnapping, Bridges kills the rich kid and hides the body. Lovejoy is wracked with guilt and ends up confessing. Carlson's sensationalized reporting whips the public into a mob who break into the police station and lynch Bridges and Lovejoy off camera. Jo Pagano's 1947 novel, THE CONDEMNED, inspired this movie which was inspired by real events in 1933 San Jose, California. That 1933 lynching also inspired the 1936 film FURY. Director Cyril Endfield ended up moving to England after he was blacklisted and had a distinguished career there. This film is a rather dull and conventional crime flick until the climactic mob attack on the police station, some of which was filmed with handheld cameras to get an almost documentary look. For a film set in California, it is remarkable that one Hispanic father with two boys are the only Latinos shown, and there are no Black people. The film ends with the moral of the film, voiced by a visiting scientist, playing over a guilt-ridden Carlson leaving the police station. The highlight of the film is when Lovejoy and Bridges visit a nightclub at which Joe E. Ross is the comic and Yvette Vickers is a dancer.

IL RACCONTO DEI RACCONTI, aka TALE OF TALES (2015) - Giambattista Basile (1566-1632) was an Italian poet credited with being the first to collect European fairy tales, which were published after his death by his sister. When the Brothers Grimm became famous in the 19th century for their collection of fairy tales, they praised Basile's work, which had been largely forgotten. Director Matteo Garrone's film is a very loose adaptation of three tales: "The Enchanted Doe", "The Flea" and "The Flayed Old Lady" but told in a way inappropriate for young people. While beautiful visually and wonderfully produced by Italian and French companies, the film quickly becomes annoying by starting one story and then jumping to another story without indicating how the stories are connected. For the most part, the three stories have no connection, except that they have characters that have unnatural obsessions. Shot in English with mostly American and British actors, the film is impressive but slowly paced and mostly uninvolving. Sure we care about Shirley Henderson as an old woman whose equally old sister suddenly becomes young and beautiful and marries King Vincent Cassel - whom we loath. But for her to believe that she, too, can become young and beautiful by being flayed alive looses sympathy. Probably intended as a metaphor for plastic surgery, the story comes to no satisfying ending because we don't know what became of her after she wanders the street dripping blood. Did she die? Did her sister find out about it? Her sister shows up at the end, but we get no mention of what happened to Henderson. This was the second movie featuring the beautiful and talented Stacy Martin - the first being NYMPH()MANIAC, and again she plays the young version of character introduced as an older woman played by a different actress - this time Hayley Carmichael. Aside from terrific Italian locations, the film could be seen as a showcase for Italian based make-up and special effects crews, who do marvelous work.

UNCUT GEMS (2019) - This is like a remake of James Toback's THE GAMBLER, but instead of an University professor, our main character is a jewelry store owner. And instead of his winning at the end, but continuing his destructive behavior, this guy gets murdered by the thugs working for his loan shark brother-in-law. If your idea of a good time is two hours of desperation and yelling, this is the movie for you.

LE MERAVIGLIE, aka THE WONDERS (2014) - The Grand Prix winner of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival is a naturalistic portrait of a teenage girl growing up on a poor farm in Italy with her mother, father and three younger sisters. Written and directed by Alice Rohrwacher, the film seems to be autobiographical as Alice grew up the daughter of a German father, who was a beekeeper, and an Italian mother. The director casts her younger sister, Alba Rohrwacher, as the mother. Our heroine, Maria Alexandra Lungu, finds out that a game show called Countryside Wonders, hosted by Monica Bellucci, is offering a "big sack of money" to one of seven families that will compete for keeping the traditional country values. The father, Sam Louwyck, doesn't want anything to do with the show, but our heroine signs up the family anyway. The family faces losing the farm due to debts, and even the income from taking in a juvenile delinquent as help doesn't solve the problem. Not only does the family not win the competition, but the delinquent runs away. Rohrwacher creates a convincing portrait of life on a farm, which demands a patient viewer. Sabine Timoteo of 7 MINUTI has a supporting role in this.

Women Make Film (2018) 7. Conversation, 8. Framing, 9. Tracking


Charles Gilbert watched:

ON THE BEACH (1959) B&W. Life goes on in Australia following nuclear war in the rest in the world. Radiation spreads their way, though, as survivors are supplied with suicide pills.  During final days submarine skipper Gregory Peck has lost his family but found Moira (Eva Gardner). A soap opera with doomsday backdrop, it poses an irenic message for mankind, with the cast a lumber yard of wooden performances. No wonder to me it lost money at the box office. "There is still"

CHINA (1943) B&W. American David Jones (Alan Ladd dressed like Indiana Jones) and partner William Bendix operate the Oklahoma Petroleum Exporters in war-torn China in 1941 as the invading Japanese make life difficult there. A trek in their truck across treacherous passes with teacher Loretta Young, her class.of young English-speaking Sino lasses, and an orphaned toddler make for plenty action.


David Deal enjoyed:



ALIEN (79)



Mildly enjoyed:







Bertrand Van Wonterghem enjoyed:

Ted Lasso – season 1 – episode 5

Eobiseu / Abyss – season 1 – episodes  6 to 8

The tick – season 2 – episodes  7 to 10

Origines secretos (2019, David Galan Galindo)

Ladro lui, ladra lei ( 1958, Luigi Zampa)

The avengers –  season 4 - episode « the cybernauts » (1965, Sidney Hayers)

Fawlty towers episode « The builders » (1975, John Howard Davies)

Get Smart – episode « How to succeed in the spy business without really thrying » (1966, Gary Nelson)

L’arte di arrangiarsi (1954, Luigi Zampa)

Gun shy (2017, Simon West)

Mildly enjoyed:

The boys – season 2 – episodes 1 & 2

Did not enjoy:

Kill me please (2010, Olias Barco)

Granny of the dead (2017, Craig Tudor)


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